What is it we love about our cats? For many people, it’s their gracefulness: sleek, nimble felines who can leap up onto walls, chase toys or balance on a narrow surface with impressive agility. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of cats are getting too podgy to show off these innate skills. Around one-quarter of UK cats are now classed as overweight or obese.
How to tell if your cat is overweight
Cats don’t get fat overnight. It’s often easy to miss the signs that your cat is getting heavier because you see her or him every day. Plus, we all have a tendency to overlook the flaws in our loved ones; it’s hard to admit that your puss needs to go on a diet.
Cats come in different shapes and sizes, so there is no definite rule for how much one should weigh, even if you could get one to sit still on the scales. You should be able to see your cat’s waist tapering in and a sleek shape when viewed from above. If your cat is more rounded, it may be overweight.
Touch can also be useful; ideally, when you run your hands over your cat’s back and sides you should be able to feel ribs, spine and hips fairly easily. If the skin moves easily over the bones, the cat is probably a healthy weight. If there is too much fat, the skin will not move easily.
Why does it matter if your cat is fat?
You love your cat no matter what – who cares about a few extra pounds? Unfortunately, excess weight can have serious consequences for your cat’s health. It can lead to heart, liver and joint problems, obesity and breathing problems. Obese cats also find it challenging to cope with hot weather.
Your cat will enjoy life less if it is carrying significant extra weight. Fat cats find it harder to exercise, so they start to play less and explore the world less. A heavy cat will also have less energy and engage with you less than a slim cat.
Ultimately, being obese will reduce a cat’s lifespan so if you want to give your pet a long, healthy and happy life, its weight problem needs to be addressed. The cost of keeping your cat will also be higher if it is overweight, as obesity-related health problems will lead to vet bills and higher insurance premiums.
How to keep your kitty slim
Any sudden change in a cat’s diet is not recommended. It can cause health problems and stress. If your cat is just a little overweight, you can slowly reduce the amount of food you give him or her and cut down on cat treats until they reach a healthy weight.
If your cat is very large, you might want to visit the vet to check there is no underlying health problem. Vets often ask for a food diary showing what the cat eats, so they can advise on what needs to change. A slow reduction in calories or perhaps moving to a different type of food or feeding regime, such as regular small meals, should begin to show results.
Exercise is also very important. Play games with your cat to keep it active and burning off those calories, with new toys introduced regularly for extra stimulation. For house cats, make sure you have plenty of climbing and scratching towers, or perches and tunnels to explore.